GUMBO: Creating Space for Everyone
Ki ngombo. Sunday I gave my best effort to pronounce this West African word which translates as okra. I then shared this excerpt from a 2020 article written by Nikesha Williams:
“Gumbo, in a sense, is the best part of the worst moments of our history.
It is the legacy of both make-do cabin cooking in the slave quarters
and the opulence of fine dining during parties at the plantation house.
It is the syncretism of culture, race, and class,
but most importantly, it is the lasting connection between kin.”
Okra was used as a thickener. When okra wasn't in season they borrowed from local Native Americans who taught them to use powdered sassafras leaves, better known as filé (also used as a thickening). Roux, adapted from the French, is introduced much later.
The Spaniards introduced us to the “Holy Trinity,” onion, bell pepper, and celery. There’s also a hint of Caribbean influence, and whatever your grandmother added.
Gumbo has a rich history of inclusion and a willingness to share and adapt. How does our faith community compare to gumbo? Are we adaptable? Willing to learn from one another and share from one another — even those who aren’t like us?
Throughout scripture we see Jesus creating a space for everyone. The religious leaders and the outcasts, the rising stars and the downtrodden are all invited to sit at the same table and experience the same grace and acceptance. Dare we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, be so bold?
March 15, 2023